It is the biggest question of the day! Does Nigeria really matter? Like an inscrutable nightmare, the ponderous mystery of the Nigerian national question, which is ultimately the nation’s enduring essence, is still at issue. Jolted by the scandalous and shocking display of of the obvious limitations of the human evolution, the unacceptable index of human misery in their country, and willed by a recent memory of oppression inflicted upon them by discredited soldiers and their quislings, Nigerians have been singing discordant tunes about the state of their forced Union. This has further been exacerbated by disarming pockets of inter and intra-communal clashes, wanton killings by Fulani herdsmen, senseless Boko Haram bombings, violent robbery and mindless kidnappings across the country. Therefore, the matter for regret and agitation is that a supposedly giant of Africa has suddenly become the world’s most viable junkyard due to the evil machinations of a fraudulent ruling class and the feudal forces still determined to keep the country in a permanent state of medieval servitude.
The stagnant situation in which the country finds itself and the helpless ambivalence of the Nigerian people, more than justify critical considerations. President Muhammadu Buhari’s New Year message to the Nigerian people has added salt to injury. In a feat of arrogant military praxis and condescension, Mr. Buhari rejected the clamour by a majority of Nigerians for restructuring which is simply the devolution of powers from the centre to the federating units so as to engender competition amongst the states or geopolitical zones and trigger development across the country. Buhari who had been begging the issue by shifting the responsibility for the restructuring debacle to the National Assembly now assumed the dictatorial powers from nowhere to assert that Nigeria’s problem is more of process than structure. This is typical of a barracks code than of a democratic dispensation. As president of Nigeria on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo also exhibited such absolute powers. Like Obasanjo like Buhari. Like PDP like APC. The vicious cycle of human stupidity continues unabated in this God-forsaken land.
To say that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was once the dominant party in Nigeria and other parties were like the women and youth wings of that party, is to underscore the obvious. What PDP was under the watch of former President Olusegun Obasanjo is what the All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari. But there is something augural about the ceaseless predilection for retired military officers or Generals to join the babeldom which their indulgence in the nation’s partisan politics has become. By their training and temperament, they are, arguably, strangers to politics. And this is why our constitutions since independence in 1960, mark them out as praetorian guards of the nation’s territorial inviolability. As warlords who are not experts in the intricate calculus of social engineering, they are bound to be absolutely insular from the daily nuances or jabs of partisan politics. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are in almost the same situation we found ourselves when General Sani Abacha was on the throne. The only difference is that in the Abacha era, Nigerians saw food to feed their children and were able to pay their children’s school fees. Also, things were a lot better during the Obasanjo administration as the Naira exchanged between 120 and 160 to the dollar. Now, the nation’s currency has collapsed completely in Buhari’s hands. It is the reign of hunger and fear.
During the traumatic administration of General Abacha, between November 1993 and August 1998, several kilometers of thick forests shut our land from the sight of the civilised world. And the voice of the hungry and powerless masses of the people was overpowered by the intimidating din of the forces of tyranny while the echoes of machine guns and bombs overshadowed the voice of reason. Dissent was decreed out of existence in this soulless land. Now, the unimaginable deprivation, the loathsome and strange diseases, wounds, captivity, pestilence and despair, were the lot of the popular masses. Alas, the rule was that silence should be adored as the goddess of survival. Hence, they had rolled out armoured tanks and other deadly weapons bought with proceeds of oil from the Niger Delta to enforce their decree that all was well provided no voice was raised against their nefarious rule. Those were, indeed, times when history mocked the efforts of ordinary mortals to subvert its supreme will. Today, we demand freedom for this democracy to matter.
As we watch religious leaders being invited for questioning by agents of the State, we must remind them that it is decreed by the Supreme Being, that His anointed should not be touched nor His prophets harmed. We must remind them of the goals of our founding fathers. All Nigerians must be emboldened by the knowledge that the goals we seek in our beleaguered country are of the first rank. These goals include, first and foremost, true equality and justice for all Nigerians. We seek this goal because we are determined to build a truly great nation in which all citizens must feel at home, one in which a selfish cabal will not have a veto power over who rules, what happens and who gets what in the country’s vicious spoils-and-booty system. We demand egalitarian democracy for Nigeria to matter. We seek an end to authoritarian rule. We are no longer anamoured of the presumed wisdom of soldiers. We do not want to be ridden any more by ambitious, intemperate and seedy generals. We have created more than enough retired generals who are merely idle, indolent billionaires and who cannot even sign their signatures. We are fed up with being barked at , being told when we can assemble or associate with one another. We have had enough of the arrogance of unaccountable power. We are sick and tired of mindless decrees rolling out like a torrent. We demand liberty for this democracy to matter.
In this land of mutilated cultures and religious intolerance, development is often seen in the dividing line between savagery and barbarism. It is a place where delicate pedantries and dilettantism are preferred to indigenous cultures. What exists is rather a culture of violence in which defenseless citizens are daily intimidated with engaging impulsiveness as in the case of Southern Kaduna, Agatu, Odi, Zaki Biam, Odioma, etcetera. And there is nowhere to run to as Nigerians appear surrounded by a misty ocean infested with a multitude of crocodiles. It is a turbulent moment with a red face when the whole society is turned into an unusual lairage or slaughterhouse where the haggling goes on unabated in high pitch amidst the din and the babble. In this concentration camp where noxious gas has reduced the people’s lifespan to barely 45 years, the poor masses are defenseless victims of the vagaries of the weather and the reign of darkness. We demand enlightenment and constant light for this democracy to be meaningful. For, in this God-forsaken land essential amenities and public infrastructure are never enjoyed. There is no potable water to drink, no motor-able roads, no hospitals with drugs, no employment for our teeming graduates, etcetera. Indeed, there is simply no nothing here. The only things in abundance are brute force, disobedience of court orders, religious bigotry, nepotism, tribalism, political repression and recession. We demand accountability and fairness for this democracy to matter.
*Amor is an Abuja-based journalist and public affairs analyst.